An alarmingly high number of Olive Ridley turtles seem to have died on the southern and northern parts of the east coast this season.

Supraja Dharini of TREE Foundation, an organisation involved in Olive Ridley conservation, said that nearly 155 turtles have been reported dead on the stretch between Napier Bridge and Marakkanam since the beginning of this season in December.

During the entire nesting season (December to March) last year, the total deaths were not more than 190, she said.

Ms. Dharini said in the northern part of the east coast, in the Nellore area, the number of turtle deaths had already touched 300 since the beginning of the new year. Last year, during the corresponding period, only 96 turtles had died.

The use of wide-mesh net by trawlers is one of the main reasons for the increase in the casualty of sea turtles. Another major reason is the use of banned Ray Fish nets, which also lead to deaths.

Ms. Dharini said many fishing trawlers from Tamil Nadu with wide-mesh nets were fishing in the waters around Nellore. When fishing takes place within five kilometres from a high tide, turtles that come to lay eggs, get entangled, drown and die, she said.

Device demonstration

Ms. Dharini said the State fisheries department and wildlife officials have given their consent for the demonstration of a turtle excluding device to be fitted on all nets used by trawlers. TREE Foundation will soon hold a demonstration for the benefit of fishermen. The device will help decrease the deaths of Olive Ridleys, she said.

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